The Role of Lifestyle in Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

One of the most common types of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease impacts the parts of the brain responsible for thought, memory, and language. As we age, our odds for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia increase. There are also 20 genes that can directly impact a person’s risk of dementia development.

While we can’t control our age or our genes, research suggests that there are potentially modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are some of the lifestyle choices that may help to reduce the risk or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Stay physically active. Physical activity can improve thinking, reduce depression and anxiety, and even help you sleep better. It doesn’t have to be strenuous either. A brisk walk, gardening, or even daily physical tasks (like cleaning or cooking) can help.
  2. Quit smoking. Cigarette smoke causes inflammation and stress on a cellular level, which increases your odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Reduce alcohol consumption. People who drink heavily are more likely to develop dementia. Cutting back to moderate drinking (two drinks a day or less for men and one drink a day or less for women) can help to reduce those odds.
  4. Stay social. Social relationships have an impact on a person’s mental and behavioral health. Research shows that people who regularly feel lonely have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease than people who are not lonely. However, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease can also be mitigated or delayed by staying mentally active and participating in ongoing social activities.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is also a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Proper nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and stress reduction are just some of the ways to help with weight management.
  6. Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage small blood vessels in the brain, impacting the areas for thinking and memory. For those who don’t already have Alzheimer’s disease, taking blood pressure medication was shown to somewhat lower the risk of developing it, according to a John Hopkins report. The connection may come from managing blood pressure more effectively or from medication, but researchers suspect it may be a combination.
  7. Prevent or manage diabetes. High blood sugar causes inflammation, which may lead to damaged brain cells and Alzheimer’s disease development. If you have diabetes, consult with your physician to develop a treatment plan and follow it precisely.
  8. Get screened for hearing impairments. Mild hearing loss makes people twice as likely to develop dementia compared to people with normal hearing. Hearing loss may contribute to a faster rate of atrophy to the brain – as well as social isolation, which can lead to cognitive decline. For those age 60 and older, make sure to get screened regularly for any hearing issues.

Early Detection Aids in Early Intervention

If you have concerns about your own neurocognitive abilities — or that of a loved one — consider getting an assessment. MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health serves patients with a variety of neurocognitive disorders, with a special focus on early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Through our evidence-based Alzheimer’s Prevention Program, we can assess your risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, benchmark your current neurocognitive health, and provide customized lifestyle coaching for improved brain fitness.

To learn more, please call 305.514.8710 or visit MIND Institute.


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